Are People with Diabetes Sweeter?

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Have you ever thought that people with diabetes are often gentler, more giving, maybe more passive — in a word, “sweeter” — than average? I haven’t found any scientific evidence for this idea, but in my personal experience with hundreds of people with diabetes, it sometimes seems true.

Or could it be that other people are getting more selfish by comparison? Yesterday, I went out to drum up support for health-care reform at an upscale farmers’ market in San Francisco. I was dismayed at how hostile many people were to the thought of contributing to other people’s health care.

“I pay for my own. Why shouldn’t they?” was a common response. Of course, there were a lot of supportive people too — this is “liberal” San Francisco after all. But I was surprised at the intensity of the argument that we’re all in this alone and people shouldn’t help each other.

I noticed that all these people speaking up for selfishness were young and healthy. They obviously hadn’t had dealings with the medical system. I don’t think you would hear the same emphasis on absolute “individual responsibility” from many people with diabetes.

Of course, you could say that people were only against giving through taxation, not through charity. But statistics show charitable giving has also gone down over the last two years. A lot of that could be due to the economic crunch, of course.

You could also say the opposition to public insurance is due to the campaign of insurance-company lies that are saturating the airwaves. I’ve heard bizarre arguments, such as that private medical insurance is “necessary for innovation” — as if insurance companies ever innovated anything in health-care except denying treatments. Or that public insurance would “drive up costs.” (Of course, countries with public health insurance have costs that are, on average, 50% lower per person than in the United States, and these countries have better results.)

Is There a Diabetes Personality?
But leaving health-care politics aside for now, is there a personality type associated with diabetes? If there is, it would probably be different for Type 1s than it is for Type 2s.

My childhood next-door neighbor Millie had Type 2, and she was the best-loved elder in the neighborhood. She always had little sweets and presents for the kids. She never complained when we played in her yard.

She was maybe too sweet for her own good. She was always taking care of nephews, nieces, and grandchildren, when she probably could have used some rest and self-care time. I’m pretty sure she would have supported public health insurance.

As a nurse and author of books about diabetes and self-care, I’ve met many people with diabetes (more Type 2 than Type 1.) Many seem to fit this new stereotype I’m making up of people with diabetes being “nice,” maybe too nice. Maybe they’re not selfish enough, but in the hyperindividual society we have become, perhaps we need people like that.

Anyway, I wonder if any of this experience resonates for you. Do you see this sweetness in yourself or in your family members with diabetes? Is it a good thing, a problem, or both? Do you think that being too sweet might actually be connected to developing diabetes in some way? And is there a different personality type for people with Type 1? Let us know what you think.

Another New Book Idea
Well, the weight book doesn’t seem like a good idea any more. Now my partner Aisha and I want to do a book on couples living with chronic illness. If you’re interested in being interviewed (by e-mail or phone) about your experience as a couple living with diabetes or other conditions, please e-mail me.

Although we’re going to advise on the whole experience of living with chronic illness, we’re going to be writing a fair amount about sex and intimacy issues, as I have done on and elsewhere.

And if you want to change the health-care system, contact your congressperson and senators today and demand real reform.

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